Bond University has picked up a quality recruit in former England Under-20s flyhalf Dan Lancaster to bolster depth for a finals statement in 2022.
Lancaster, 20, only flew in this week and will get his first taste of Rugby in Queensland in reserve grade against Wests at Sci-Fleet Stadium on Saturday.
The son of former England coach Stuart Lancaster is on the path to regular Rugby in the English Premiership with Leicester but is admirably expanding his rugby education along the way.
He should know that this old school route to becoming a more rounded player is well-trodden.
At 17, former England captain Phil de Glanville played a season with Wests in Brisbane in 1987 when winning a Colts premiership. His face always had a little more character for his 38 Tests thanks to the smashed nose he copped in the ‘87 Colts grand final.
Forwards Chris Butcher, Richard Kinsey and Doug Cooper, a premiership winner with Souths in the 1980s, were other English imports to leave marks on Brisbane Club Rugby. A Welshman, Tony Rees, has made his life in Queensland since he was a naïve young lock playing at University of Queensland in the 1980s.
None had the water-logged welcome to Queensland that Lancaster did. Thursday night’s training session at Bond was as far removed from the lush training fields of the Leicester Tigers as you’d get.
“I don’t imagine Dan expected to have his second training run with us in the car park. We couldn’t get on the fields because they were soaked so a walk through in the car park was the best we could do,” Bond University coach Grant Anderson said.
“Dan is a young footballer who wants an experience working and playing Rugby between seasons in England where he made his English Premiership Cup debut last year.
“Obviously, he must earn a place in the side. Hayden Sargeant controlled the game really well for us from flyhalf in the win over GPS last weekend, built scoreboard pressure with his goalkicking and he’s got a good partnership with halfback Liam Dillon.
“Dan will start in reserve grade and sit on the bench for Premier Grade against Wests covering No.10 and inside centre.
“He’s a ball-playing type with a top kicking game. Most of all, he adds that depth that all good sides need to become better.”
Anderson makes no excuses for the Bullsharks being openly ambitious after the pain of an unfulfilled 2021 campaign.
The Bullsharks tumbled out of the top four with a late season 40-31 loss at Sci-Fleet Stadium where Wests fought with great spirit with 14 men.
The sudden COVID cancellation of matches ended the regular season early. Wests were into the semis. Bond were out.
“We’d been in the top four for 16 weeks, games were cancelled with no rescheduling and there was no way back,” Anderson said.
“We did feel hard done by so, yes, it has left us with motivation. That’s why the theme of this season is simple...’Redemption’.”
Bond Uni has started 2022 as if they mean it too. Wins over Sunnybank (31-7) and GPS (23-14) have included plenty of strong showings.
Flyhalf Sargeant has returned from Sunnybank to his roots on the Gold Coast to be a key figure.
No.8 Nixon Taramai is that physical presence on defence that all sides need. Flanker Jake Upfield is running the lineout and young lock Wilson Blyth is stepping up.
In the backs, the pace of winger Joey Fittock neatly finished a slick Spencer Jeans grubber kick on full-time to put away GPS. The ever-reliable Dan Boardman in the centres wants the chance to put all that the club learnt from their finals run in 2020 into action later this year.
The difference made by new Strength and Conditioning taskmaster Sean Edwards is also shining through.
His NRL pedigree is proven via the Canberra Raiders, South Sydney’s 2014 premiership team, the North Queensland Cowboys and the Gold Coast Titans.
“Sean added a real hard edge to our pre-season and we are seeing the benefits,” Anderson said.
Prop Rhys Sheriff has dropped 13kg since arriving from Sydney club Eastwood. Equally, fellow prop Helaman Samuela is more mobile, playing more minutes and scrummaging better.
Brisbane clubs tend to ponder premiership contenders without giving a thought to the one club down the M1.
They will do so at their peril this season with the Bullsharks up for the fight to reach their first grand final. The return to Sci-Fleet Stadium will have extra meaning for many on Saturday.